A life in two steps
Any documentary about choreography has two hurdles to clear: it must focus narrowly enough on the world of dance to satisfy its core audience; but it also needs to be broad enough to pull in the average moviegoer.
Mr. Gaga, about the life and work of famed Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin, manages the first but struggles with the second. Despite winning an audience award at the Sundance festival, this doc may have a hard time connecting with those outside its rarefied world.
One problem is that Naharin’s incredible dances are shown only in brief clips. We get to see a lot of his work, but never to sink into any one performance piece. Compare that with Wim Wenders’ 3D masterpiece Pina, or the more recent Flamenco Flamenco, which allowed viewers to watch a dance from start to finish.
The clips do provide evidence of Naharin’s impish humour, not always on display during rehearsals. One performance features a man performing a jerky motion that eventually turns out to be polishing a machine gun. In another, an audience member called up on stage to perform turns out to have been planted there. (This subterfuge may also explain why Naharin describes his early life and then recants on several key details.)
His biography includes early years spent on a kibbutz; working as an entertainer in the army during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War; a spell in New York, during which he met and married Mari Kajiwara; and his return to Israel, where he clashed with government censors when they demanded he use more modest clothing for a performance celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary.
Along the way he even developed his own dance style, called Gaga, with an emphasis on personal interpretation of the music rather than formal technique. (Perhaps not surprisingly, Naharin didn’t begin formal training himself until the age of 22.) Director Tomer Heymann shows some startling examples of the results; I just wish we could see more of them, and in greater length. ∂∂½
Mr. Gaga tells the story of famed Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin.